Over a million Palestinians are crowding the far south of the Gaza Strip. If the city is stormed, there is a risk of a humanitarian catastrophe. The overview.
Israel’s army has attacked targets in the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip despite international warnings, according to eyewitnesses. Medical sources said more than 20 people were killed in aerial attacks on two houses. The mayor of the city in the south of the coastal area, Mohammed al-Sufi, also confirmed the number of victims to the German Press Agency.
Israeli soldiers also bombed a Hamas vehicle, killing three people, including the Islamist organization’s head of police intelligence and his deputy, according to police sources and eyewitnesses on Saturday. None of the information could initially be independently verified. Israel’s military initially did not comment when asked.
Eyewitnesses: Most intense attacks on Rafah to date
They were not the first reports of attacks on targets in the city near the border with Egypt. According to eyewitnesses, the Israeli military has attacked Hamas members’ positions there more frequently in the past few weeks. According to information, today’s attacks were the most intense so far. Rafah is the only place in the entire coastal strip where Hamas still exercises control.
There are currently no Israeli ground troops deployed in the city. Rafah’s mayor Al-Sufi warned of an army advance into the town. “Any military operation in the city, home to more than 1.4 million Palestinians, will result in a massacre and a bloodbath.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had previously ordered the army to prepare an offensive on Rafah. There are still four remaining Hamas battalions in the city. Accordingly, the military leadership should plan the evacuation of civilians in the area.
More than a million Palestinians in Rafah
A military offensive in Rafah is considered highly problematic. The town, which had around 300,000 inhabitants before the war, is now said to be home to well over a million Palestinians. Most of them fled there from other parts of the Gaza Strip before the war, partly on orders from the Israeli military.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres had previously warned of a humanitarian catastrophe and consequences for the entire region. Half of the Gaza Strip’s population is crammed into Rafah and has nowhere else to go.
Foreign Minister Annalena Baebock also once again warned urgently against an Israeli military offensive in the south of the Gaza Strip and at the same time announced another trip to Israel. “An offensive by the Israeli army on Rafah would be a humanitarian catastrophe,” wrote the Green politician on X (formerly Twitter). “The people of Gaza cannot disappear into thin air.” Baerbock pointed out that the need in Rafah was already unbelievable and that 1.3 million people there were seeking protection from the fighting in the Gaza Strip in a very small space.
Saudi Arabia strongly warned Israel against military action. The Kingdom noted the serious consequences of military action in Rafah and emphasized its categorical rejection of the forced relocation of hundreds of thousands of civilians, according to a statement from the Foreign Ministry. Riyadh called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to “prevent Israel from causing an impending humanitarian catastrophe.”
The Gaza war was triggered by the unprecedented massacre carried out by terrorists from Hamas and other extremist groups in southern Israel on October 7th. Israel responded with massive air strikes and a ground offensive.
Media: Israel shells targets near Damascus
Israeli forces have also attacked targets near the Syrian capital Damascus, according to media reports. The Israeli military fired on the Damascus area from the Golan Heights, the Syrian state news agency (Sana) reported, citing a military source. Violent explosions were heard west of the Syrian capital.
The Syrian air defense shot down some of the rockets. Sana further reported that there was only material damage. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a residential building west of the Syrian capital was hit. Three people were killed. On Friday evening, the Shiite Hezbollah militia claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on an Israeli barracks in the Golan Heights.
UN on Gaza war: Israel refuses many aid deliveries in the north
In the Gaza Strip, the United Nations and other humanitarian organizations say they are unable to provide adequate care to people in need – partly because of obstructions by the Israeli military. Since January, Israeli authorities have denied 39 of 76 planned convoys to the north and delegation visits to clarify needs there, the UN emergency agency OCHA reported. 16 others were obstructed, two were only partially approved. Only twelve convoys or delegation visits to clarify needs could have been carried out as planned; nine would have had to be postponed by the aid organizations themselves.
Depending on the security situation, aid operations in the south sometimes have to be coordinated with the Israeli military. 172 such missions have been planned since the beginning of January, of which 41 have been refused. In the south, deliveries are also possible without agreements with the Israeli military, which are not included in these statistics.
I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.